PERSONAL EXPERIENCES IN HOSPITALS & INSTITUTIONS
As I drew my inaugural breath; when I opened my infant eyes to this world for the first time, a lifetime of choices were waiting for me right outside the comfort of that cozy hospital crib. Seasons of situations and experiences; times of triumph and heartbreak; trials and tribulation. I’d apprehensively take my first steps and laboriously mumble my first words. I’d learn the fundamentals of what it is to be human – the basic needs for survival. Entering into adolescence, I’d trifle in fierce games of stick ball, encounter awkward first kisses, and of course, experimentally learn all my lessons the hard way. I would expect myself to power through all the failures to subsequently reap the benefits of my successes; at whatever questionable cost they were attained or achieved. I’d lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate to make situations or outcomes turn in my favor, with nobody knowing the wiser – and it worked; up to a certain point – but the endurance of a lifestyle carrying on in that fashion would eventually start to catch up and soon, it would shine bright in the spotlight, pardoned and exposed in all its fictitious glory. Breath-taking views would one day be seen from the peak tops as well as a hopeless sense of no return felt in the valleys far below; it’s the roller coaster of life, and mine would prove to be a rather extreme version of such a ride.
Somewhere during the course of being that carefree kid, playing ball and running wild, I grew into adulthood. Seemingly overnight, the awkward first kisses, hard lessons learned, and fierce stick ball games with buddies transformed into a slew of dilemmas resulting from a detrimental, yet enchanting love affair with substance abuse, alcohol in particular. My ultimate escape; my rock and my comfort – a friend who was always there in my times of need no matter what the circumstances. A means in which I did not have to be present for my life anymore; a way to numb out all the anguish and torment and disappointment that came along with being me. I can’t pin point exactly when it all changed, but I used to do fun things like spend days at Six Flags, or go bowling or camping and enjoying an honest and real good time with my friends. I used to go on family vacations to see the great American sights like Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, The Devil’s Tower, the Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon. We even cruised to Bermuda, twice, with Royal Caribbean Cruise Liners. Those are all but distant memories. Now, my “vacations” are far less exciting – in fact my very life hangs in the balance if I don’t set sail and embark on them. The following is a condensed list of my new “vacations” over the last six years, starting at the age of 24:
- 2010, Carrier Clinic Detox Center – 10 day detox
- 2010, High Focus Centers 90-Day IOP Program – Outpatient
- 2011, Riverview Medical Psych Ward – 10 Day observation & detox (following an attempted suicide)
- 2011, Carrier Clinic Detox Center – Round 2 – 10 day detox
- 2011, Archstone Recovery Center, 60-Day Treatment Program in Del Ray Beach, FL
- 2012, High Focus Centers 90-Day IOP Program – Outpatient – Round 2
- 2013, Hospitalization Overnight (severe intoxication) (frequent occurrences that year so I won’t list all)
- 2014, Hospitalization Overnight (severe intoxication) (frequent occurrences that year so I won’t list all, again)
- 2015, Carrier Clinic Detox Center (Again) 10 day detox
- 2015, Solid Landings, Rock Solid 90-Day Treatment Program – Episode 1
- 2015, Solid Landings, Rock Solid 90-Day Treatment Program – Episode 2
- 2015, Solid Landings, Rock Solid 90-Day Treatment Program – Episode 3
- 2016, Solid Landings, Long Beach Recovery – Currently Attending – Episode 4
Looking back and seeing how the scope of how my “vacations” have really shifted in a negative fashion from luxury, enjoyment, relaxation, and adventure to being consistently institutionalized – the questions become: “Why does it always go wrong? What am I missing? What am I not doing? Why do I always find myself in the back of a police cruiser or in a dark, grungy motel room with questionable women, or spending time and time again in hospitals and treatment centers?”
WHAT DID I MISS OR NOT TAKE AWAY FROM FORMER TREATMENTS?
For starters, I’m about as stubborn as they come in regards to taking or following suggestions that would serve my greater good, integrate some integrity – infuse responsibility; suggestions that have helped millions of people like myself recover from this insidious disease of alcoholism – or at least keep it in remission. I automatically shift into the mind set of finding a better way to do it myself – Chris’s way; in a nutshell, apply the “program of me” – I’ve been labeled heartless, cruel, and a selfish narcissist over the years, (mostly by various ex-girlfriends, wife, co-workers, employers). I tend to believe I’m smarter or more clever than everyone else because I’ve always eluded catching a case or I have the ability to finagle my way out of a jam – I don’t have a DUI although I drove under the influence on a daily basis and I’ve never served a prison sentence, although there are too many reasons to list as to why I should have, some of which keep me up at night. The only prison term I serve is on a daily basis, in my head, being tortured and shackled to a disease that never lets up – and it virtually won’t until it kills me. Maybe I’m lucky, quite possibly some power greater than myself has been working overtime in safeguarding me from what could be. For the things I’ve done and situations I’ve subjected myself and others to, I should categorically be locked away in a cell somewhere for the rest of my days. God forbid I implement some honesty, open-mindedness, or willingness to actually make changes deep down in the core of my being, not just put on a fabricated happy face, wear a mask of comedic deflection, give all the legitimate rehab answers and coast my way through convincing everybody things are going great; that I’m a “model of recovery” or an “upstanding American citizen” – well guess what, I’m not any of those things, it’s just a façade that I forged for myself over the years – the wife, the kids, the house, the career, the cars, and the goddam white picket fence. From the outside looking in, I was a model citizen – young and successful, but in the end all I did was provide a disservice to everything and everyone that unknowingly crossed my ill-intentioned path – like I’m a slithering serpent in the night, an undetectable cancer to society at large. It’s drinking rat poison and waiting for the other guy to die so I can conquer and rule all, my way – The Land According to Chris. There’s no logic there, it makes no sense, it’s a false reality, a fantasy formulated in a sick mind, and the express train into an early grave – that’s all. I’ve neglected a lot of what I need to be doing in these treatment centers. The following items are what I failed to authentically grasp in all my previous attempts at rehabilitation:
- Form a solid and ongoing relationship with a sponsor. I always randomly chose someone just to say I had a sponsor, but never worked with one because of an intense fear to leave my comfort zone or call another grown man all the time and tell him about how my day went – it feels unpleasant and strange and weird.
- Keep or form an actual solid support network of sober friends in the program. Eventually, I always pull away and isolate from them and their support because I start to develop an alternative agenda in my head – I’d never share or be open about myself at meetings when these thoughts start to surface.
- I never did any serious, heart wrenching or life-saving step work – I’d just cycle through steps 1, 2, & 3 over and over again afraid to move forward in the process – occasionally I’d pen a half-assed 4th Step.
- I couldn’t come to grips with the fact that other people, (AKA: therapists, counselors, sponsors, support staff, program managers, directors, doctors, psychiatrists, etc…) cannot fix me FOR me; or I just plain and simply wanted a pill to fix all my problems instead of actually taking a hard and grueling look at myself, facing the facts, and genuinely putting in the hard work.
- I never, ever followed up with any of my discharge planning. No aftercare doctor’s appointments to continue medication, no continuance in therapy to stay on track or keep progressing, stoppage of all attendance at meetings, etc… – which ultimately led to a lot of free time and boredom; then boredom led to depression, which inevitably led to picking up the bottle once more to escape my life that had once again become seemingly unbearable to live in.
- I lost that sustained sense of urgency that my life depended on taking sobriety seriously every single day, one day at a time. I simply forget or block out how bad it gets out there in active use, telling myself, “one won’t kill me” or “it really wasn’t that bad”.
- Women are my absolute kryptonite; my ultimate distraction – and I crave their validation of me as a man. Chasing after them is just like chasing after a bottle – it gets me out of myself and completely takes my focus away from handling the issues of life as they need to be handled – I could spend hours on Tinder, MeetMe, Plenty of Fish, and any other app I could find on the matter – it became a whole new addiction in itself, it was fun, mysterious, and exciting to finally meet the girl I had been talking to – most of all, it was an instantaneous internet ego-boost.
- I never fully tried to get sober for myself. I wanted to get sober for my wife (future ex-wife). I wanted to get sober for my children. I wanted to get it for my employer, the rest of my family, my friends, and even my damn dog, but it was invariably all for not – everything I built and every relationship I nurtured has been taken from my life; the way things were are long gone and now, I tote around a red suit case from recovery house to recovery house in Southern California wondering why and how I could have let things get to this point. It’s becoming verifiably clear that the only person I can actually get sober for is me, which I could never fully subscribe to in any previous attempt. If I can do that, just do this thing for myself, honestly and truthfully, I can hold out faith that everyone might benefit in the process and just maybe I can start putting some of the pieces back together that I so carelessly smashed into millions.
THE RELAPSE SCENARIO AND AND HOW IT HAPPENS:
It’s happening again; the routine hostile takeover that seizes rationality and aspires to exile me back down, flailing into the abyss. I sense being singled-out and alone – that I’ll always be alone; the redundant ride on this merry-go-round is starting to throw me for a loop, planting seeds of doubt that this is ever going to get any easier; questions of whether or not I can endure resisting it’s unreal refuge, day in and day out, until I draw my final breath; questioning if I even want to – it can seem, at times, like I’m fighting a predetermined war; one that won’t and cannot be ruled in my favor.
I wake up, hung-over, walk into my living room and peer out the window through drawn shades. The outside world is blinding. I can hardly stand it. I yearn for nothing to exist beyond the walls that contain me. The resonating sound of kids laughing, birds chirping, and neighbors starting their day is nauseating. I don’t comprehend their utterly jovial and positive perspective on the world – so I stand there and secretly loathe them from within the confines of my home. I spot my car parked in the driveway. It’s present and doesn’t appear to have any new battle scars; a tiny wave of relief washes over me – one major catastrophe favorably avoided. I turn my attention away from the window and to the status within the home. There’s an open pizza box on the coffee table full of partially bitten slices – one appears to have escaped and lies wounded, face down in the rug; cheese meshed into the fabric and one lone pepperoni sits lifeless and inanimate. Wedged in between the couch and coffee table are bottles of Jack Daniels in a sad, shallow grave. No doubt each one had been drained of its life; no doubt they fought valiantly in a battle they would never win – submitting in order to my wraith like so many before them.
Amidst the chaotic scene sits my baby girl innocently watching cartoons. She looks over at me with nothing but unconditional love and acknowledges my presence with a sincere, “Hi Daddy”, in a soft, angelic voice; not aware of what the contents or condition of our living room really means. I was irrefutably convinced that after I spawned a child I would go to the end of the earth to stay sober – if anything in this world could motivate me to live an honest and productive life, it would be my children, and for a short time it appeared to be enough. But I quickly found myself drowning in the bottle once again and questioning everything I thought I wanted for myself, and for my family. I was again defeated; broken; I folded faster than a seven-deuce to an affliction that hijacked my psyche so many years ago. I could honestly think of nothing else that would keep me from continuing on this road destined for calamity. I tossed around the idea that it would be in everybody’s greater interest for me to go down alone, rather than hold them hostage and forever anchored to my sinking ship. They would at least have a fighting chance for survival should they separate from my plague of dysfunction and false reality. Why does this happen? Why do I relapse time and time again? I had and still could have so much to live for. The following items are the best answers I can think up in regards to these fleeting questions.
- I habitually slip away from and finally altogether abandon my program of recovery and AA as a whole – I get easily distracted and caught up with women, work, money, sports, television, movies, etc…
- Major stress from various life situations: marriage, kid’s needs, mortgage payments, rent payments, paying other various bills on time, my family, my in-laws, employment in a stressful occupation, keeping the house running as smooth as possible and as safe for the kids as possible.
- Major stress from newer various life situations: going through the divorce process I never wanted, selling my house by force to avoid foreclosure, resignation from my 10-year career, finding new employment in California, lost contact and custody of my daughter to my ex-wife, lost contact with my son, constantly in and out of treatment facilities, inability to be self-sustaining, selling the car I just paid off, medical bills adding up, collection agencies always calling, insurance company issues across the board, etc…
- I vehemently crave an escape from the daily grind of everyday life, especially when things aren’t going my way. The overwhelming desire not to be present for this life takes hostage of my brain.
- Random thoughts and attacks from the disease: fear of failure, fear of success, feeling of I’m getting what I deserved for everything I’ve done, feeling that I’ll never be good enough, feeling like everybody I love will be safer and better off with me at a distance or out of their lives completely.
- And sometimes…it just hits me out of nowhere and I’m coming-to a week later dazed and confused.
HOW ARE THINGS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT?
I have a lot riding on my ability to pull it together and make something of myself – for real; not pretending to be a productive member of society with all my covert cover-ups and alternative agendas. I don’t understand why it’s so arduous to be authentic or genuine about living, but for me it is. I attribute some of this to the emotional mood swings I still encounter, anywhere from depressed and unmotivated to waking up ready to take on the world. I credit portions of it to my lack of trust and dislike for the human race in general. I associate other elements to the mere fact that I live with the disease of alcoholism and it comes with the territory. It gets complicated to be consistent when all this is taking place in my head. A large portion of the time I feel like I have lost it all, like I have nothing left to lose, there’s no reason to carry on, and I’m going to die miserable and alone, but deep down I know that doesn’t have to be the case at all. Don’t get me wrong, I have given up a lot in my pursuit of successful drinking, but not everything; many of which can be fixed with time and effort and working hard to regain the trust that I gave away. In essence, everything I have to gain is, in itself, everything I have to lose.
On the other hand, there’s so much hate that we’re forced to dodge and weave through on a daily basis; so much out of our control. Flip on the news and get a glimpse of what the human mind is attracted to. Death and despair – murders, rapes, kid-touchers, mass shootings; the list goes on – and it’s all wretched and evil – we’re essentially a modern age Sodom and Gomorrah; maybe worse. A good excuse for me; a portion of why I could justify and entertain the desire not to be present in this life; drown in the bottle until my time is up; until I check out of this hedonistic place. Maybe I like to drown in it because there are certain facets of that negativity I see in myself; characteristics I wish weren’t there – the parts that continuously break the hearts of people around me as I let them down once more; the parts where I let myself down. Or maybe by working through this process, not running or hiding, and getting to know myself without a drink or a drug, I can learn how to see through the fog, through the mist, and see the faint beauty in all things wicked and cruel – if there’s a seed, some day a magnificent flower might bloom. So, besides trying to open my mind up to new perspectives on life in general, what tangible things are going to be different this time around?
- I’m going to give it a rest chasing after women, including all dating apps such as Tinder, MeetMe, Plenty of Fish (POF), etc… and the temptation of the 13th Step at 12-step meetings. No relationships, no hook-ups, nothing; I’m taking a temporary vow of abstinence until I get myself in a much better mental space – until I can love myself, I can’t truly love anybody else.
- Continue to grow and embrace a stronger friendship and co-parenting relationship with my ex-wife in the best interest of our children and also in the best interest for the healing health for both of us and what we have been through together.
- Find and stick with a good sponsor – which means regular check-ins, step work, and following all his suggestions.
- Find a home group and get a commitment as soon as possible – accountability.
- Stop giving in to my isolation tendencies: check in regularly with family back east and don’t disconnect from my friends in sobriety right here because all those things will provide another excellent source of accountability.
- Be 100% honest with myself, tell on myself if I feel a certain way, don’t act on impulse or be compulsive, get a second opinion from someone I trust before I do anything stupid…because I sure as shit can’t trust myself.
As an alcoholic, I walk a narrow path. Yet I keep my head held high and although many fall away into the night, I carry on and do my best to stay focused on the faint glow of promises that penetrate the horizon. There is, no doubt, a war being waged. This war is never ending and will ultimately be determined by the battles along the way – the major conflicts; the most minuscule scuffle and every bit of dissension and strife in between. It’s a vital measure of my craving to exist; to experience, not just be physically present. I’ve always been looking for the answer, but forgetting to enjoy the ride. The greatest conclusion I have come to on this journey so far is that maybe not everything in life has a concrete answer; maybe I can draw the same results in two totally different ways. Quite possibly, just living in the moment at hand is enough; observing my surroundings; connecting with them. I breathe the miracle of life into my consciousness and pray to let it cleanse me of all the guilt and shame of my past; I ask God for forgiveness of my evil ways and twisted mind. It can no longer hold me captive or keep me gasping for air. The sun shines through its most valiant bursts of light after the darkest part of the storm, and I really want to see that light; in fact, I’m going to see it – or at least I’ll die trying – but I’ll never give up.